Shropshire Star

National Crime Agency probing 60 cases of suspected people-smuggling

It comes after 40 arrests were made in July.

Boats thought to have been used by migrants crossing the Channel

Around 60 investigations into suspects using small boats to smuggle thousands of people into the UK are currently being carried out by the National Crime Agency (NCA), bosses have said.

Branch commander Matt Rivers said the organisation is “engaged in approximately 60 investigations at this time” after an increase in English Channel crossings, with some being ready to be taken to court while others are just starting.

Mr Rivers said he could not confirm how many of the 60 investigations are actual active prosecutions.

National Crime Agency operation
Home Secretary Priti Patel during a National Crime Agency operation (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

It comes after 40 people were arrested in July on suspicion of people-smuggling on small boats.

Mr Rivers told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have a number of arrivals, but the arrests (are) of those really behind the migrant transfers.

“We haven’t arrested every group as of yet. We’re working on as many groups as we can identify where the intelligence leads us.

“We did have a large impact over the summer and we will have further impacts as we continue.”

He added that he believes a “large majority” of the arrests will be prosecuted.

NCA deputy director of threat leadership Andrea Wilson said reports of an increase in arrivals of Albanians on boats crossing the Channel are accurate, and whether or not they are involved in organised crime is “part of the assessment process”.

In July, the total number of people reaching the UK since the start of 2022 after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats such as dinghies hit 15,107, according to provisional government figures.

The milestone – almost double the number recorded in July last year (7,735) – was reached as it emerged that the Foreign Office had advised against the Government sending migrants to Rwanda over human rights concerns.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A jet ski thought to have been used in a migrant crossing is inspected by police after being brought in to Dungeness, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Ms Wilson told Today: “The numbers are extraordinary and that is a challenge for all of us involved in the tackling of organised immigration crime, specifically the small boats area.

“So, working with our partners, as I’ve described both here and overseas, we are absolutely having an impact. Whether we will ever stop the crossings… if I had the answer to that, that would be wonderful. But we are all certainly, collectively, having a very good go at it and a very good impact.”

More than 2,000 people arrived in the UK between July 8 and July 18, the longest consecutive run of crossings to date this year.

The highest daily total so far in 2022 was recorded on April 13 when 651 people made the crossing in 18 boats.

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